Directed by: Kinka Usher
Cast: Hank Azaria (The Blue Raja), Janeane Garofalo (The Bowler), William H Macy (The Shoveller), Ben Stiller (Mr Furious), Geoffrey Rush (Casanova Frankenstein)
Mystery Men is much funnier in theory than it is in practice. A description of the film leaves you convinced that it must be hilarious. Captain Amazing, concerned that he’s going to lose his sponsorship deals because the public is growing bored of him, releases his arch enemy, Casanova Frankenstein, from prison so that he can fight him again and raise his profile. Instead, Frankenstein captures him and so it’s up to a band of superheroes with powers as useless as an inflatable dartboard to rescue him: The Blue Raja, who throws cutlery; The Bowler, whose weapon is a kinetically-charged bowling ball; the flatulent Spleen; The Shoveller, with his trusty spade; and Mr Furious, who, erm, gets angry.
It all sounds wonderfully daft, but it’s curiously low on laughs. That’s because it’s simply not witty or sharp enough, relying on the same type of gags (oh look, rubbish powers in action) over and over again.
What saves the film are some wonderful performances, which extract more humour from the lines than they actually deserve. Geoffrey Rush is the most gloriously over-the-top villain since Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham. Garofalo, despite playing a relatively straight role, is funnier than a lot of the blokes mugging around her (and she’s sexier than the supposedly sexy character). William H Macy looks for all the world like if he tries hard enough, the Shoveller performance could nab him that Oscar.